Earlier this month I headed over to Groningen, a small city in the Netherlands, for one of Europe’s biggest showcase festivals. Taking place in mid-January, Eurosonic Noorderslag is the first gig of the year for most of the artists and attendees, which means it sets the tone for the year ahead. It’s a chance for new stars to jump ahead of the predicted ones-to-watch, and for the music industry to catch up with contacts and friends, and to eat lots of Dutch frites.

Here are three things to love about Eurosonic…

1. Finding out if your new faves are actually any good

Through compiling Future Pop every week, I regularly get obsessed with new artists at an early stage, before there’s enough material online to really know how great they are. Eurosonic is a rare opportunity to see these acts live, often before they’ve played in London, and find out if the obsession is warranted. My most anticipated act this year was Iceland’s Glowie, and though she’s definitely not ready for global superstardom right now, after seeing her at Eurosonic I’m very hopeful for her future.

2. Falling in love with an artist you never expected

My favourite performances of Eurosonic this year came from two acts I was aware of, and interested in, but certainly not desperate to see. As you’ll read in this week’s Future Pop (coming to your inboxes later today), I was impressed by the energy and fun of both Finnish pop star Alma and Irish rap trio Hare Squead. Another surprise favourite was also Irish, but very different – singer-songwriter Áine Cahill.

3. Discovering hidden music scenes of Europe

Each year Eurosonic has a focus country, which features in convention panels and sends over a selection of their best talent to perform at the festival. This year it was Portugal – not a country known for its home-grown artists, but it is home to one of Europe’s top summer festivals, Primavera Sound. Artists such as Best Youth and Neev showed the diversity of the Portuguese music scene.

And the one thing that HAS to change:

The weather. Cold, rain, snow, hail… Groningen in January’s got it all. Can we not just move the whole thing to Spain next year?